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AM Bible Study Archives
"Our Religion and Our Tongue"
Wednesday AM Bible Study
May 28, 2003
If you were to do a personal study of James' letter, you'd be amazed
at how often he speaks of the tongue (meaning, of course, our habits of
speech). He has already said, you'll remember, that we should be "quick
to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger . . ." (1:19). He warns us to
"so speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty"
(2:12). In perhaps one of the most familiar passages in the Bible about
the tongue, James says, ". . . We all stumble in many ways. If anyone
does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle
the whole body as well" (3:3). He describes the horrible potential of
the tongue in 3:1-12; and here also shows us that the control of the tongue
Many people believe that they can express the outward manifestations of
"religion", and yet not worry about what they do with their tongues < so
long as they are living "religious" lives. But Jesus Himself told us that
this is not so (Matthew 12:34-37). According to James, to ignore the tongue
is to make one's religion "worthless". The matters of the tongue are
I. WE CAN THINK OURSELVES "RELIGIOUS" AND YET BE DECEIVED.
"If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue
but deceives his own heart ..." (NKJV)
A. The word James uses for "religious" is one that refers to outward
expressions of religion. He isn't talking about someone being a Christian,
because that involves an inward transformation. A Christian is someone who
has been transformed because Jesus lives in them. To call somone a Christ
is to refer to what someone is (see John 1:12-13). But the word James uses,
thrÍskos, speaks of what someone "does" (see Acts 26:5 as an example).
B. James says that such a person only "thinks" themselves religious (or
"seems" or "considers himself" to be so). In other words, such a person
thinks themselves to be something because of what they "do"; but that they
are deceived in this, because what they really "are" is betrayed by the way
they use their tongues. They are self-deceived.
II. BECAUSE THE QUALITY OF OUR "RELIGION" IS REVEALED IN THE
CONTROL OF OUR TONGUE.
"... thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue ..."
A. To "bridle" the tongue is a figure of speech for bringing it under
control. But it isn't that James is saying, "Control your tongue and all
will be well." The real issue is what is in the heart, which is revealed in
1. Look at Prov. 4:23-24; and see how the tongue and the heart are related.
2. Look also at Psalm 141:3; and see how they are related.
3. Most of all, look at Mark 7:20-23; and see how Jesus related the tongue
and the heart.
4. Look also at how Jesus related these two in Luke 6:43-45.
B. The word for "bridle" is put in the present tense. This refers to an
ongoing practice. Because we still have the principle of sin dwelling in
us, we will occasionally use our tongues wrongly. The true test is in our
practice. Do we confess the sins of the tongue and repent of them? Or is
sins with the tongue our regular habit of life?
III. THEREFORE "RELIGION" WITHOUT "TONGUE-CONTROL" IS WORTHLESS.
"... this ones religion is useless."
A. Religion without tongue-control is described by James as not
accomplishing what the person thinks it accomplishes. He describes it as
"vain" or "ineffective" or "useless". This is because it is an indicator of
what's really in the heart.
B. What sort of things come out of the mouth and betray a worthless
1. Lying (Prov. 6:16-19).
2. Cursing (James 3:9-12; Eph. 4:29-30; 1 Peter 2:9).
3. Swearing and oaths (Matthew 5:33-37).
4. Slander and gossip (James 4:11-12).
5. Filthy talk (Eph. 5:1-5; Col. 3:8).
C. The more truly "religious" we become, the more sensitive we will be to
the sins of our own mouths (Isa. 6:5). The place to begin is not by
cleaning up our mouth, but by confessing the sin in our hearts.